The best way to tell whether your butter has reached the ideal room temperature state?
Leave butter on the kitchen counter for 30 minutes to an hour. The temperature of your kitchen will determine how long it will take to soften.
The butter should feel slightly cool, not warm, to the touch. And it should look and feel smooth and creamy, not greasy.
Gently press a finger into the butter. If you can make a shallow impression into the butter without it leaving a residue of grease on your finger, or if it holds a thumbprint with a bit of resistance, you’ve reached that state.
Conversely, if you touch a cold stick of butter with your finger and press in, it won’t leave an impression or grease your fingers. Additionally, cold butter that’s straight out of the fridge won’t cream properly with the sugar, leaving you with lumps of cold, hard butter in your cookie dough (not to mention the toll this takes on your stand or hand mixer).
When you touch a stick of butter that is super soft, warmer than room temperature, your finger will leave a deeper indentation in the butter and will come away coated with a greasy film. Additionally, melted or super soft butter will compromise the structure of the cookies, resulting in a loose, soupy dough and causing the cookies to spread too much on the sheet tray (note: some recipes will call for melted butter and were developed with these properties in mind).
Why is room temperature necessary?
Softened, room temperature butter, incorporates smoothly into the dough, forming a solid, stable foundation for the cookies and cakes.
How Long Should Butter Sit Out To Be At Room Temperature?
To soften butter, leave it on the kitchen counter for 30 minutes to an hour. Keep in mind that the speed at which your butter will soften depends on the temperature of your kitchen. If it’s the wintertime, you might need to leave your butter on the counter overnight to allow it to fully soften. If it’s particularly hot outside, your butter will soften faster—watch your butter to ensure that it doesn’t start to melt.
For the occasions when you’re baking in a pinch, time isn’t on your side and you don’t have the hour it takes to bring butter to room temperature: cut it into bits and spread them across a plate, or grate the stick of butter with a box grater.
Simply shred the amount of butter you need over a bowl. The little pieces will soften faster than a solid stick or even small chunks.
©2022 Regina Mitchell | based in las vegas + teaching virtually worldwide